How to Become A Forensic Accountant

Updated By Staff Writer on May 13, 2020

If you think accounting is all balancing books and tracking spending, there’s a whole other world of accounting you’re missing out on. Forensic accountants study financial data, looking for potential fraud, as well as aiding in criminal and civil investigations. They look for embezzlement, corruption, and other financial crimes.

As a forensic accountant, you could work in a state or federal law department or work more locally with accounting firms and large corporations. With enough experience, you could even start your own consulting business to help protect companies from fraud and crime.

College Education and Certifications

To get into this career field, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree to start. While getting a specialized degree in Forensic Accounting is a good idea, a degree in accounting, finance, business, or any other related field will work for entry-level positions. The important thing to look for in a degree program is that you learn how to think like an investigator as well as familiarizing yourself with business and finance laws.

Some ideal courses you might want to take in your degree program are:

  • Auditing and Forensic Accounting
  • Family Law Engagements
  • Fraud Prevention, Detection, and Response
  • Valuations in Litigation Matters
  • Insurance Claims
  • Financial Data Analysis

Remember that these courses may have different names in your college degree program, or these topics may be covered in other classes. Another certification you can pursue is a Certified Fraud Examiner. This specialization allows you to focus on fraud and complex financial transactions. To earn your CFE, you first must join the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)., as membership is required to take the exam. Then, study for the exam, take it, and pass the exam. This certification could give you a larger earnings potential.

In addition to becoming a member of ACFE, for your CFE exam you’ll need at least two years of professional experience in accounting, audit, criminology, fraud, loss prevention, or law, along with your Bachelor’s degree.

Things to Expect from the Job

As a forensic accountant, your duties will vary depending on where your career is housed. The majority of your career, you’ll be expected to collect evidence and uncover fraud, translate the technical jargon into common languages, or even testify as a professional witness in court. At places like law firms, consulting firms, and corporate security, you could be asked to review exchange rates and law, conduct investigative audits, analyze embezzlement allegations, ensure compliance, and many other similar duties.

However, these might be more of an exception to your average day rather than the normal. Most of your days will be spent at a desk, working with numbers, but you’ll be keeping your eyes open for signs of fraud or embezzlement.

In addition to the skills you learn while getting your CPA and earning your degree, employers look for potential job candidates with other skills as well. Having a good eye for analysis is crucial in this field, as well as the ability to think critically about data. Employers also like employees who are driven and don’t need to be monitored or who don’t ask about assignments frequently. A self-driven attitude is a good one. You’ll also want to brush up on your people skills, as this career requires solid communication in both written and verbal forms.

A forensic accountant is a great career if you want to put a spin on traditional accounting and a great way to get more involved in businesses. For a career dealing with numbers, fraud investigation, and helping with mergers and acquisitions, a forensic accountant could be a great career to get into. Learn more about how Independence University’s Accounting with a Forensic Accounting Emphasis can help you earn a place in this interesting field.